Utah’s Refugee Day of Prayer unites diverse peoples

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SALT LAKE CITY — Religions from across the globe were represented at the annual Refugee Day of Prayer as Utah refugees gathered together to celebrate and join in worship.

Caitlin Thomas
The Inter-Faith Ministries Wall Mural. (Caitlin Thomas)

Utah’s Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services hosted an Inter-Faith Day of Prayer for refugees from all over the state Tuesday, Feb 23. Islam, Bah’ai, Christianity, Hinduism, and a few other indigenous groups were just some of the many faiths represented at the event. The Day of Prayer is held annually by the Mosaic Inter-Faith Ministries to help encourage love and unity in our diversities.

Dr. Leslie Whited, the CEO of Mosaic Inter-Faith Ministries, welcomed refugees to gather together as she explained why the day of prayer was so important to her. Whited shared her belief that people of all faiths and all cultures deserve to be celebrated.

“Today is a precious day. I could hardly sleep last night I was so excited for us to come together from all different faith groups to worship God and to pray,” Whited said.

The Inter-Faith Ministries group strives to create an interfaith sanctuary for all refugees. Their mission is to “witness to God’s love for all people, we stand with and advocate for migrants and refugees, transforming communities through ministries of service and justice.”

Caitlin Thomas
Refugees gather together in worship and prayer. (Caitlin Thomas)

The event enabled refugees from all different faiths to stand and share their personal prayers of religious worship. The diverse congregation with individuals from Lebanon, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and many other countries offered their solidarity and support to each individual’s sacred beliefs.

Jose, a refugee from El Salvador, shared the growth that he has experienced since he began coming to interfaith events more than 15 years ago.

“I was a refugee without status here and I think I have grown a lot and I like to see people change. You know you come to something and you better your life and I’ve seen a lot of that here,” Jose said.

Jose was just one of many refugess who attended the event looking for support and unity. He described the difficulties he has endured in his life and the refuge he has found in Utah.

“I used to have a mini perspective and when I came to America I see much bigger. Things happen for a reason and when you see the whole picture you are able to analyze, and I find that the United States is one of the best places in the world. It has a beautiful people. The most of the people just have a lot of love and care,” Jose said

Taleem a Muslim refugee from Baghdad, Iraq, was one of many to express gratitude for the inter-faith event.

“I am very happy because I am here and I have freedom in my religion. Thank you for America,” Taleem said.

Wendy Stovall, a member of the Unification Church from Zimbabwe and the Secretary for the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, related the different faiths to children in a big family. She spoke of the importance of accepting individuals from differing faiths and the issues she has seen in her 33 years of work with interfaith-based organizations.

“God is a parent to everybody in different religions. Everybody worships in a different way and you wouldn’t chastise your kid because he wears pink and she wears blue,” Stovall said.

Barbara Trites, owner of Interfaith Marketplace, a member of the North American Coordination Team for the United Religions Initiative, and a previous board member of both the North American Interfaith Network and the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions, described the importance of creating a dialogue for diversity in religious beliefs.

“I think it’s about getting the discussion going about just honoring each other,” Trites said.

A “Christ-Centered Healing” Conference will be held Friday, Feb. 26, at the South Towne Expo Center where the Lutheran Services Group will be present to encourage love, unity, and healing through religious worship.

This May, Mosaic Inter-Faith Ministries will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

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